LETTER: Water Rights Compact Negotiated in Good Faith

By Beacon Staff

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council would like to thank the representatives and senators who came forward to support the proposed Water Rights Compact entered into by the Tribes, the State of Montana and the United States of America. The compact was an elegant solution to the complex pattern of land-ownership and water use challenges on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The compact used a science-based and progressive approach to solve the current state of uncertainty regarding water rights. If the majority leadership of the Senate and House had allowed a floor discussion of the compact the Tribal Council is confident the many benefits of ratifying the compact would have been clear:

• Millions of state and federal dollars would have become available to improve the crumbling infrastructure and water efficiency of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project and for other economic development on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

• Permits for new domestic, commercial, municipal, industrial, irrigation, stockwater and other water uses would have been allowed through a Flathead Reservation Water Management Board comprised of local representatives.

• Certainty regarding the Tribes’ water rights and existing state-law based water rights would have finally been achieved, ending decades of litigation and uncertainty.

• Eleven-thousand acre feet of mitigation water would have become available for off-reservation domestic, municipal, commercial and industrial water development within the Flathead and Clark Fork river basins.

• The Montana Water Court would have been able to conduct a timely general stream adjudication for multiple western Montana adjudication basins.

• Most importantly – the Tribal and non-Tribal residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation would have been spared a protracted, costly and disruptive legal process that now seems unavoidable.

Again, thank you to the supporters who honored the spirit of government-to-government negotiations, who understood the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ role in the history and development of the state of Montana, and who understood that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes negotiated in good faith with the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission to reach a fair and equitable solution for the benefit of all water users.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Council

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